4364.0.55.008 - Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12  
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ZINC

Zinc is a mineral involved in a variety of body processes and found in a broad range of foods. Zinc’s biological functions range from helping maintain the structural integrity of proteins to regulation of gene expression. Sources of zinc in the Australian diet include meat, cereals and dairy.1 There are numerous factors that can affect the absorption of zinc in the human body, for example the presence of protein and iron in the food consumed. The former increases absorption, particularly for proteins from animal sources, and the latter decreases it when present in high levels – such as those found in some dietary supplements.2

Proportion of population with inadequate zinc intakes (estimated as % below the EAR), by age


Age (years)
EAR (mg)(a)
.
.
Prevalence of inadequacy (%)(b)

Males
Females
Males
Females
2-3
2.5
2.5
-
-
4-8
3.0
3.0
-
-
9-13
5.0
5.0
0.3
2.1
14-18
11.0
6.0
27.4
10.0
19-30
12.0
6.5
37.4
13.5
31-50
12.0
6.5
39.3
10.1
51-70
12.0
6.5
51.4
7.8
71 and over
12.0
6.5
66.3
12.1

Source:
(a) National Health and Medical Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2006, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, <http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/zinc>
(b) Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intake, 2011-12

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

Graph Image for Persons aged 2 years and over - Proportion of population with inadequate zinc intakes

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12



More than one in three males (37%) and one in ten females (9%) had inadequate usual zinc intakes. From age 14, male requirements (EARs) for zinc are nearly twice those for females of the same age group. This corresponds with more males having inadequate intakes of zinc than females, despite males’ median intake of zinc being higher than females’ for every age group. The greatest prevalence of inadequacy was among males 71 years and over, where 66% had inadequate zinc intakes.

In contrast to the considerable proportion of adult males who had zinc intakes below the EAR, toddlers of both sexes were much more likely to exceed the UL for zinc. 63% of 2-3 year old males and 40% of 2-3 year old females exceeded their applicable UL.

The National Health and Medical Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Health noted that there was no evidence of adverse effects from naturally occurring zinc in food.3 FSANZ considers that the usual zinc intakes for young children are not excessive and are unlikely to represent a health and safety risk to young children. Another way of assessing whether zinc intakes are excessive is to compare them with the Provisional Tolerable Daily Intake (1 mg/kg bw/day), an alternative health based guidance value. In a separate analysis conducted by FSANZ, zinc intakes in young Australian children were found to be within this health based guidance value.4


ENDNOTES

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12, 'Table 10: Proportion of Nutrients from food groups', data cube: Excel spreadsheet, cat. no. 4364.0.55.007
2 National Health and Medical Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2006, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, <https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/zinc>, last accessed 4/2/2015
3 National Health and Medical Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2005, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, Evidence Appendix, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra
4 Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2011, 23rd Australian Total Diet Study, <http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/publications/pages/23rdaustraliantotald5367.aspx>, last accessed 20/2/2015